Step by Step: Bluemedia Takes on NASCAR Signage
A sponsor branding change adds to the racetrack experience.
When international brewing company Anheuser-Busch shifted its sponsorship of NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick from Budweiser to Busch earlier this year, the branding change involved more than simply re-skinning Harvick’s No. 4 stock car. It also meant a shift in national branding for the Anheuser-Busch label, pushing Busch beer to the foreground for the first time since 2007.
With Bud taking a backseat, the beer producer partnered with Phoenix International Raceway, or PIR, as it’s known in the racing circuit, and rebranded the existing Speed Cantina at the track to the new Busch Garage.
A fan favorite located just outside Turn 2, the sports bar and grill site, formerly sponsored by the Speed channel, features custom furniture, flat panel TVs, live music, and racing-themed food and drink specials during each race weekend.
The Busch rebrand meant that all of the existing Speed elements and interior signage, as well as the custom fabricated exterior signs, all of which featured a vibrant red – both Speed and Budweiser’s signature color – would need to be updated to blue Busch graphics.
As bluemedia now enters its seventh year as the preferred signage and graphics provider for the track, PIR brought us in to transform the space and add to the entire fan and brand experience, from vinyl wall, window, tabletop, and concessions graphics, to custom fabricated channel letters, sign faces, and illuminated sign cabinets.
Equipment and Supplies Used
Hardware and Software
Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 64bit, Onyx Thrive RIP, Rhino 5, KeyShot 4, HP Latex 3000, HP Scitex XL1500 Printer, GBC 2064WF-1 laminator, Zünd G3 L-3200 digital cutting system, Millermatic 350P MIG push-pull welder
3M Controltac IJ180Cv3-10, 3M Scotchcal 8518 Gloss laminate, Direct-Print 3M Panaflex backlit faces, 3M Scotchcal Translucent vinyl flex-faces, Sloan LEDs, Allanson 12-volt power supplies
Tools and Miscellaneous
iPad App Photo Measures by Big Blue Pixel, 3M Tape Primer 94, 3M silicone, NT Cutter A-300G knife, Olfa A1160B blades, screwdriver, wrench, screw gun, power drill, 3M VHB Tape
1. Measuring, Mapping, and Managing Expectations
With every project of this size and scope, bluemedia requires that detailed measurements and photo mapping of the space be performed prior to pre-production. In this case, we were able to use existing Speed Cantina schematics originally created in 2008 as the underlying foundation for the interior and exterior signage and graphics. Our field install team and lead fabricators also began onsite surveys and inspections using the iPad app Photo Measures by Big Blue Pixel to verify the older schematics, because every space is changed over time, often in subtle ways.
Once all measurements were taken and verified, the fabricators removed the older signage, including the previous channel letters and sign faces, a process that took about a day. They then brought them back to our 50,000-square-foot custom fabrication facility to begin the process of “rehabbing” the original equipment.
2. Designing the Future with the Past in Mind
Because nearly all of the existing signage elements were to be reused or reincorporated into the rebrand at the racetrack’s request, our team set about updating the color space of the project first, from the Budweiser/Speed red to the newer Busch blue and yellow, as well as integrating further complementary hues into the color scheme.
Logos and Busch brand elements for the interior and exterior wall and window graphics were sent to our team by the client and laid out, pre-flighted, and formatted for production by our in-house designers.
Our structural designer and 3D artist then began shaping the brand aesthetic, building the location’s back bar and interior with 3D mockups created using Rhinoceros’ Nurbs modeler, Rhino, further narrowed down with photorealistic renders generated in KeyShot 4.
After we made minor adjustments and received a round of revisions from the client, we sent the design files to our “Mission Control” station – the central hub of our production process that comprises the managers of all production-related departments.
3. Schedule, RIP, Print, and Laminate
Once the files entered the production queue, the scheduler at our “Mission Control” station placed the project in line for central RIP.
The RIP scheduler then placed the project in our production system, which checks the specific printer’s open time. In this case, we used the HP Scitex XL1500 printer to produce the round blue circle background elements for the custom fabricated exterior signs on direct-print 3M Panaflex backlit faces; and the HP Latex 3000 to produce the yellow Busch Garage foreground elements on 3M Scotchcal Translucent vinyl flex-faces and 3M Controltac IJ180Cv3-10 vinyl for the interior wall murals and decals. The scheduler then placed each of the files in the print queue.
After printing, we rolled up the majority of the graphics and sent them to our finishing and QC teams for any last touches and final checks, while we sent the mural artwork to the lamination department, which used 3M Scotchcal 8518 Gloss laminate to protect the finish and provide an extra layer of damage and UV protection.
4. Fabrication Builds the Shape of the Brand
Rehabbing the old channel letters and sign faces included reconditioning and rebuilding the main exterior sign cabinet and exterior gate sign cabinet, and fabricating new retainers for both. It also meant replacing the cabinet sheeting where necessary and removing older neon lighting components.
We used aluminum to reconstruct and refinish the cabinets, with welding performed using Millermatic 350P MIG push-pull welders. Next, we populated the sign cabinet with new Sloan LEDs and new Allanson 12-volt power supplies, which improved the quality of the signs’ light output immensely. After testing and performance checks on the new lights, we sent the cabinets to our paint facility. Parts of the cabinets were then painted using Matthews’ MAP Ultra Low VOC paint, while the majority of the work would be finished onsite at the racetrack. Total time for fabrication and painting was around 60 hours.
5. 90 Percent Preparation Still Requires 100 Percent Installation
While a project this size would typically require about eight to 10 weeks in overall scope, bluemedia completed it in just three.
To accommodate the condensed turn time, we used one of our regional subcontractors, Aspen Painting and Coatings, to perform the sanding, floating, and painting of all interior walls prior to our install. Aspen was also tasked with painting several added décor elements, or “toolboxes,” inside the space from red to blue, as well as painting the entire exterior of the building.
The window and wall graphics inside the building were installed in just one day, with bluemedia field install teams working around the clock, taking about four hours for each wall mural.
Installation of the new exterior sign cabinets required about 32 hours and included additional sanding, priming, and painting of the existing structures and sign cabinets. We used Matthew’s low-VOC paint to finish the exterior signs, with painting lasting roughly three days.
Finally, the fabrication teams installed the new backlit faces and vinyl flex-faces, along with polycarbonate used for the sign face, with the last of our quality checks and tests performed two days before the track’s grand opening of the space.
6. PR Event and Phase 2
All of the above production and installation happened in conjunction with bluemedia completing our annual PIR track signage ahead of the NASCAR Good Sam 500, which includes track and pit walls, grandstand flags, large-format banners, midway signage, and more. As a result, there was an extra layer of excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the event for our team.
During the grand opening, attendees were treated to live entertainment and giveaways, as well as a chance to get up close and personal with a No. 4 Busch Beer Chevrolet replica, just like the one driven by Kevin Harvick.
While the new signage and graphics look stunning in the daylight, it was at night, during the live entertainment, that the space really had a chance to shine. Before, the exterior building and gate signs could only be seen if the viewer was within 30 or 40 yards of the space. Now, with the newer LED technology installed, the signs can be seen from several football field lengths away, across the parking lot.
Looking ahead, bluemedia will continue to produce additional interior graphics and branded fabricated signage for the rebranded Busch Garage, as part of the Phase 2 project coming up in November.